Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Who Killed the Half Blood Prince?

As a filmmaker; I am well aware of the intricacies of transitioning a much-loved book into a film. (This was first made clear to me after reading John Irving's 'My Movie Business' several years ago.) So I understand that it has got to be much more difficult for Warner Brothers to undertake a series of books whose characters and the situations they find themselves faced with, are so real to the millions of readers out there in the Muggle World. 

I also know that Ms. Rowling has maintained very close creative control on all of the movies even to the point of handpicking Alan Rickman for the role of Snape. And for the most part, her decisions when to hold firm to the original story-lines and when to give have been good ones.

Therefore I can only conclude that she was under the Imperious Curse when she reviewed and approved this particular script written by Steve Kloves, directed by David Yates and produced as always by David Heyman.

There are way too many newly constructed and unneeded scenes. For example; the train station and the coffee shop with its resident waitress, as well as the burning of The Burrow which has been a haven for Harry all these years and continues to be into the next book! How do the filmmakers plan to resurrect it? I am curious... and not in a good way.

What is essentially the subplot of Harry and Ginny's burgeoning romance was kicked into high gear, depriving both stalwart and movie fans of the natural pacing of young and natural love with all of its tension and anticipation. The same held true for Ron and Hermione's relationship. Instead of concentrating on cultivating chemistry between the characters; they instead cultivated situations to put them in the same space.

Basically, too much time and effort were put into these and not the mystery about the identity of the Half Blood Prince and his importance to not only this installment of Harry Potter, but to the overall story.

Even as the filmmakers used their creative license to create new scenes, they omitted very valuable ones like Dumbledore stressing that Harry was to keep his invisible cloak with him at all times. The characters' learning to apparate. And most importantly, the number memories that they delve into as Dumbledore seeks to inform and make Harry ready for the ultimate meeting with Voldemort. After all, Ms. Rowling like anyone who has faced an opponent knows that one is supposed to know and understand his enemy to be able to defeat him. 

Had the sequences been handled completely and correctly; Harry (and the viewers) would have understood how Voldermort transitioned from Tom Riddle, what drives him, and as well as his similarities to Harry himself. This is key to the Deathly Hallows. The few memories that were shown, were also inaccurately referred to as Voldemort's memories; not ones Dumbledore has collected from several people.

Harry has never been a coward. Indeed it is his readiness to rise to both real and obscure challenges that have driven the stories; just think of the situation that led to Sirius' death. How then in this movie Harry flees like a coward when he felled young Malfoy in the girls' bathroom? Or, stands idly by and allows Dumbledore to be killed without trying to help him?

Ms. Rowling in the book, knowing her character, placed a freezing spell on him by the unspoken word of Dumbledore who in the instant it took him to do it, sacrificed his ability to defend himself and so lost his wand to Malfoy's spell. A great wizard such as he could not have been so easily at the mercy of one as young and inexperienced as Malfoy; not when Voldermort himself could not defeat him! This key element is non-existent in the movie. As was paying tribute to Dumbledore with a funeral. The greatest wizard who ever lived had died and passed the mantle to a younger one who loved him and no reverent funeral scene was used to illustrate and capture it.

I'd like to know who's the Muggle that bears the responsibility of killing the Half Blood Prince!

This has all just given me a headache... 

Accio migraine tablets!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A cook I'll never be; I aspire to be the guy with the plate in his hand.

So I came across this picture of Julia Child on the set of The French Chef in 1963 and couldn't help sharing it! 

Those were the good ol' days (way before my time by the way) when television shows, including those about cooking were taped live and broadcast uncut! Therefore if the water was supposed to be 'boiling' before vegetables were added; one had to wait for the water to boil and so Mrs. Child improvised and filled the time with tips and stories about cooking and doing sundry other things while waiting for the said water to be ready to receive the vegetables.

I think I caught one or two episodes of Mrs. Child's show back in the early seventies when I was a mere kid who had no interest whatsoever in anything to do with cooking except the final product on my plate when mealtime came around. Needless to say I was bored with the show. Had I only given some thought then to all that would have been going on behind the scenes that us tv viewers couldn't see, it would have been a thousand times more interesting!

Thankfully I have matured (somewhat) and can now appreciate both the show's 'behind the scenes' tasks and the task of cooking itself... if only so that I could break my betrothal to fast food outlets and learn to feed myself in a healthy manner. On my list of things to accomplish in the very near future, is to produce and tape a live weekly show with all its trappings however as the odd person who tastes my cooking will tell you; I will never be a Julia Child!

Picture: Paul Child/Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The desolation of life and art.

Last week I finally looked at
 Apocalypse Now; Francis Ford Coppola's greatest movie (and yes that's even taking his earlier The Godfather and The Godfather II into consideration). It is viewed as making a definitive statement on the turmoil of war, showing the undiluted difference between good and evil, the desolation and darkness that ensues when morals are taxed and the impact of hierarchical American decisions on the rest of the world.
To do this, the producers formed a bond with Ferdinand Marcos to use his military equipment and enable accessibility to the remote shooting sites in the Philippines. Along with all the 'trappings' of shooting in the jungle, they also endured a typhoon which blew their sets and set them back in time and money, Martin Sheen suffered a nervous breakdown (the opening scenes of him in the hotel room were unscripted and quite real; in fact he really broke the mirror and even attacked Mr. Coppola in a fit of drunken stupor). Later on, he would also suffer a heart attack and struggle to reach help. Marlon Brando demanded too much money for too little work, eventually turned up 80lbs overweight (his character was a lithe, thin man) and with no idea of his lines having not read the script. This weight gain also effectively eliminated Mr. Coppola's scripted ending because as he said Mr. Brando was 'too fat'.  

In meeting the demands he had set for himself, Mr. Coppola mortgaged himself thin and was well known during the time as the suicidal director proclaiming it as his intention many times. In short, the production was way over budget, very behind time and extremely punishing on all involved; and that's not counting the two years it took for post production to be completed!

All of this makes me admire Mr. Coppola and the film's cast and crew tremendously, including Dennis Hopper, Robert Duval and a very young Lawrence Fishburne (he was actually 14 at the time of filming but gave his age as 17). However this admiration is tempered by one of the final scenes; that of an oxen being butchered to death. 

On seeing it (and cringing painfully) I had thought that it was a simulated scene using an animal stand-in. Just a couple days ago however I found out that it was indeed a real animal that was brutally murdered with no thought or value for its life. I have read conflicting reports; that it was an actual ritual in progress and Mrs. Coppola saw it and alerted her husband and they started shooting. But knowing a tiny bit about shooting film and remembering the shots (I don't think I will be able to look at them again) I am more inclined to believe the latter report which is much the same; that Mr. Coppola was alerted to the fact by his wife however to facilitate shooting, he recreated it with another oxen for his much needed ending.

To me it is a strong case of life imitating art, imitating life as the very thing which Mr. Coppola sought to document; the twisted minds that blur the line between good and evil,the desolation and darkness, the cold hearted taking of lives and the effects of the American will at any costs are more clearly illustrated than the scene of US soldiers lead by Mr. Duval's character wiping out a seaside village so that they could surf its waters.

And no; I am not anti-American.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Paying homage to the Land of McGuffin.

Okay, I changed the picture on my post on McGuffin! It's trifling really, but the fact that the post did not show a pic that is distinctly Scottish as opposed to a pic that represents me bothered me every time I thought of it. Now it does! 

Only thing is... because I did that the post traded positions with the last one and I am yet to figure out how to fix that! Oh well. 

No I am not part Scottish...

For non-film buffs and film buffs who instinctively know film techniques but are not aware that they do; a Mcguffin is a plot element that catches viewers' attention or drives the plot of a work of fiction. The incomparable Alfred Hitchcock popularised both the term and the technique, a hallmark of his thrilling films. In 1966 the great French director Fran├žois Truffaut interviewed Mr. Hitchcock who illustrated the term "McGuffin"with this story: 

"It might be a Scottish name, taken from a story about two men in a train. One man says, 'What's that package up there in the baggage rack?' And the other answers, 'Oh that's a McGuffin.' The first one asks, 'What's a McGuffin?' 'Well,' the other man says, 'It's an apparatus for trapping lions in the Scottish Highlands.' The first man says, 'But there are no lions in the Scottish Highlands,' and the other one answers 'Well, then that's no McGuffin!' So you see, a McGuffin is nothing at all."

I am confused by people who gorge themselves on mangoes and still doubt the existence of God.

Originally uploaded by sahgal rahul
Okay, granted the picture does not show mangoes from Trinidad and Tobago or even the Caribbean. In my defence the ones I just consumed were totally Caribbean and very Trini, which made the need to eat them all the more urgent and hence no mangoes to photograph for the blog!

Flickr came to my rescue and more specifically the gentleman who took this lovely picture. Here in Trinidad where 'mango season' means all your neighbours' trees are laden with fruit, one never thinks that other countries have mangoes too. And certainly not that India is the number one producer in the world! Quite an edifying piece of information for me...maybe I should reconsider that job offer I got from Mumbai...

I don't know about India or any other countries for that matter, but from my experience and observations 'mango season' in Trinidad and Tobago can make the most honest, trustworthy person dither on the values of honesty and trustworthiness when faced with ripe mangoes hanging 'just within reach' from a tree that belongs to someone else! Why just last week...

No I didn't; but Lord knows I wanted to! After all, three lovely ones were hanging over my neighbour's wall, practically in the street. That MUST make them public property! Since then when I go in and out of my gate I avert my eyes and turn my full concentration to the task of unlocking and opening my gate.

I apologise to lovers of apples in advance; I can't see what you people find soooo delicious about that fruit and I am firmly convinced that Adam did not succumb to an apple. I am perfectly sure it was a mango!

Julie to be specific!


This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.